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South African Transport and Allied Workers Union

When South Africa’s government announced a plan to privatise the country’s ports, the dockers’ unions, led by SATAWU, called in Public World to support their analysis of the government’s arguments and help the unions develop an alternative approach.

Funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), we supported the union side on the bipartite Ports Restructuring Committee (PRC) and helped facilitate a two-day workshop at which shop stewards analysed their industry’s strengths and weaknesses.

The workshop also devised alternative ways of reviving the ports and within a week we had drafted its analysis and ideas into a proposal the unions presented to the government at the PRC. The government then decided against privatisation.

The project report commented that the workshop was “an exercise in participatory democracy in policy design and strategic development”. The exercise had “enabled labour to enrich its understanding of what is required to improve the performance of the ports” and “proved to be a highly effective means to collect and capture information and knowledge from frontline experts with invaluable tacit knowledge.”

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